For quite some time I've been a bit nervous about reading any books by Angela Carter, and one of my fears about starting the VVV challenge was that I would have to read books by authors who I wasn't sure about reading, including Angela Carter. I'm not quite sure where this fear arose from, perhaps I perceived her books as being a little off-centre and somewhere on the spectrum of "fantasy" writing which I'm not hugely keen on. Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet last weekend, having picked up a copy of The magic toyshop in Oxfam, and spent Saturday afternoon absolutely gripped by the book, finding it both extremely enjoyable and pleasurable to read and extremely disturbing in equal measure. I couldn't believe I'd waited so long to read her books, and felt slightly disappointed that Virago haven't published more of her canon. Happily we had a student here a little while ago who was hugely interested in Carter, and so we have most of her books, which I'll be reading outside of this challenge.
This is the amazingly fantastical story of Melanie and her brother and sister. In some ways a coming-of-age story, it traces their lives from living with a guardian while their parents are away, through the devastation of their parents death to living with her aunt and uncle and two young men in the very weird set-up of the toyshop owned by her uncle. It is a strange environment - her aunt is struck dumb and her uncle is extremely forbidding. He seems to care more for the puppets that he makes that for his family. The situation in the household deteriorates until it reaches a disturbing climax.
The prose writing of this book is amazing; Carter's descriptions are extremely rich and really give this extraordinary book the edge into brilliance. It is the sort of book which can be studied in great depth - the way in which Carter depicts the various women and their roles for example, and I think it would be possible to apply all sorts of psychoanalytical theory. Unfortunately I don't know enough about lit crit to do this.
I don't feel that my blog post does justice at all to this wonderful book, but I would highly recommend it - it is one of the best VMCs that I've read so far. But do be prepared to be disturbed as well as enjoy it.
Carter's other VMC books are The passion of new Eve, Fireworks, Several perceptions and Shadow dance, and I'd love to take recommendations as to which to try next. I am also a little puzzled by her anthology Wayward girls and wicked women as to whether it is a VMC - it doesn't appear on my list, and my copy doesn't have a number, but another VMC reader has a copy with a number...
You might wonder why I'm not showing you any pictures of the book today; I'm blogging about The magic toyshop in two parts and all will be revealed tomorrow.